Friday, August 29, 2008

Hramblings: Dr. Temple Grandin born today, 1947

I've followed Temple Grandin's career since reading about her in Oliver Sack's book, "An Anthropologist on Mars." Dr. Grandin is an expert in animal behavior and a well-known designer of humane animal handling systems. She provides a unique and well articulated view on how people with autism should be treated and moreover, that their perspective should be equally valued. Her most recent book is "Animals in Translation".

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hramblings: 2008 Fall Penny Stamps Design Lectures

Every year, UofM has a variety of designers, artists and engineers come in for an hour lecture on their work followed by a Q&A. Think of it as Ann Arbor's TED conference. Some are odd, others inspiring and a few are jaw dropping. Past lectures have included Arthur Ganson, Michael Braungart, and Peter Richards. This year's offerings are similarly broad and include a talk by Theo Jansen a computer programmer/roboticist whose Strandbeests have been a fixture of internet video long before Youtube. My advice is to review the list of talks and go to the one you are LEAST interested in. I suspect it will turn out to be a favorite.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hramblings: Computer scientist Gordon Bell born today

Every once in a while I check in on how things are going with MyLifeBits, particularly the SenseCam. There are no cheap small digital fisheye cameras at this writing although someone tried to construct one from a security peephole. Lomography has a new version of their analog fisheye, but you're not going to take a days worth of photos with it. Bell has found that a terrabyte is enough to record all of the input streams he has. Not sure whether he factored in higher fidelity photos, music, video.

Saturday, August 16, 2008



Hroadtrips: Coal-fired pizza in Michigan


During a lengthy discussion on the state of pizza in Ann Arbor, I related a story about childhood trips to a pizza place in Johnstown, PA. The secret was a coal oven which yielded an amazing crust. If there's a downside, the high temperature sort of limits toppings to those of a less flammable makeup. Anyway, a quick google yields a review of Tomatoes Apizza by the Serious Eats blog.

So...we took a drive.

Lots of potential here. However, trouble with the coal oven competes with customers unfamiliar with the product, i.e. "my pizza is burnt!". Reminds me of the risotto scene in Big Night, "Does this come with a side of pasta?"

Coal oven pizza is not so much baked as rescued. In my view, if its not smoldering, its not done right. And these guys do a fine job if left to do it. This is the sort of pizza to get with the least embellishment. Try cheese, fresh garlic and have them toss some basil on after its trip in the oven. I should have known better than to order pepperoni, which goes through a shrinking (and toughening) process in the blaze. A thinner cut means you get bacon bits instead.

Small deliveries of coal are not the norm these days. That coupled with the marketing challenges may mean that they will not be able to educate their customers fast enough to make the hassle worth it. Caveat gustor.